The definitive history of a powerful family dynasty who dominated Europe for centuries -- from their rise to power to their eventual downfall.
In The Habsburgs, Martyn Rady tells the epic story of a dynasty and the world it built -- and then lost -- over nearly a millennium. From modest origins, the Habsburgs gained control of the Holy Roman Empire in the fifteenth century. Then, in just a few decades, their possessions rapidly expanded to take in a large part of Europe, stretching from Hungary to Spain, and parts of the New World and the Far East. The Habsburgs continued to dominate Central Europe through the First World War.
Historians often depict the Habsburgs as leaders of a ramshackle empire. But Rady reveals their enduring power, driven by the belief that they were destined to rule the world as defenders of the Roman Catholic Church, guarantors of peace, and patrons of learning. The Habsburgs is the definitive history of a remarkable dynasty that forever changed Europe and the world.
Rady (The Habsburg Empire: A Very Short Introduction), a history professor at University College London, delivers a granular yet accessible survey of the Habsburg Empire's central role in the transformation of Western civilization from the Middle Ages into the modern world. Documenting the political and social contexts behind the reigns of each Habsburg ruler, Rady traces the empire's rise from 13th-century Swabia (now southwestern Germany) to its 16th-century expansion into Spain and southern Italy and its 20th-century collapse. Milestone figures include Philip II of Spain (1527 1598), who controlled colonies in North and South America and Asia; Maria Theresa of Austria (1717 1780), who advanced Enlightenment ideals as she expanded government bureaucracy, mandated schooling for peasant children, and sent medical personnel to investigate rumors of vampirism across central Europe; and Archduke Franz Ferdinand (1863 1914), whose assassination by a Yugolsav nationalist sparked WWI. Rady notes how the Habsburgs' ability to consistently produce male heirs (their "genetic good fortune") facilitated territorial expansion, but succumbed to "successive intermarriages" that led to infertility and infant death, contributing to the downfall of the monarchy's Spanish branch. Packed with names, dates, and accounts of little-known wars, Rady's prose is more easily digested in standalone chapters than as a linear narrative. This comprehensive account provides an insightful overview of seven centuries of European history.